‘Historic agreement’ brings increased choice for sugar beet growers


Sugar beet breeder KWS and the joint Seed Working Group of British Sugar and NFU Sugar have reached an agreement that extends the seed offering to growers.

The agreement means growers can for the first time choose between seed that is processed and pelleted by the breeder or by Germains Seed Technology.

Ben Bishop, KWS sugar beet country manager for the UK, described the agreement as ‘historic’ as it was the first-time growers had a genuine choice in pelleting technologies.

“Thousands of hectares of KWS own-brand seed have been purchased and grown by a limited number of farms over the past two seasons and we are pleased that this choice will now be extended to all growers for drilling in Spring 2020. Crucially, growers will be able to express their preference for KWS’ seed technology on their seed order form,” he says.

“This choice will support the competitiveness of sugar beet production in the UK and bring benefits to the grower including full breeder accountability for the seed once it is on farm and the opportunity to purchase seed for re-drilling for any reason at 50% of the invoice price. All KWS-processed seed will come with Early Plant Development (EPD), our processing and priming technology already enjoyed by farmers across continental Europe,” he adds.

Several years of trials overseen by the BBRO have shown that the KWS pelleting process known as EPD2.0 and the first-generation process, EPD, perform strongly in the UK.

Comparative performance of KWS EPD and EPD2.0 processed seed

Mean of 34 treatments comprising 1,224 plots across six locations and spanning three consecutive seasons (2016 - 2018). Source: BBRO

Mean of 34 treatments comprising 1,224 plots across six locations and spanning three consecutive seasons (2016 - 2018). Source: BBRO

“EPD2.0 gave a yield benefit of 1.5t/ha in the trials offering growers the choice of improved seed treatments on KWS seed,” says Mr Bishop.

The agreement does not include the right for KWS to set prices for its products on farm as these will continue to be set by the Seed Working Group.

“We would have welcomed the opportunity to decide the price for our pelleted seed to growers as it would not only extend choice but also promote competition between all parties for the benefit of growers,” says Mr Bishop.

What accountability and choice means for the grower

  • Accountability from breeding to sowing: KWS would be fully accountable for its own-processed seed once on farm, something not possible under the previous arrangement. This commitment includes extending the KWS Beet Seed Service, a scheme already enjoyed by growers in other European markets, whereby a grower of KWS-processed seed can purchase seed for re-drilling at a reduced price; and
  • Wider choice in seed technology: growers can choose KWS seed treatments – proven in independent UK trials – on all KWS varieties.

The agreement with the Seed Working Group relates specifically to KWS’ range of classical varieties, such as Daphna and Sabatina KWS. It does not include the herbicide-tolerant varieties known as CONVISO® SMART, where traceability, purity and stewardship requirements necessitate that growers have access, through distributors, to the technical expertise needed to support the whole rotation.

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